Soccer And Shakira's Fans, Be Warned
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Sophos, a corporate anti-virus protection provider, is warning computer users against the new Shakira Pics email worm (VBS/VBSWG-AQ) which is spreading like wild fire.
"This is the second time the Colombian hip-shaker Shakira has inspired a virus writer," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.
Shakira is the latest celebrity to be the subject of a virus perpetuator. Previous celebrity subjects include Anna Kournikova, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.
Political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and PK Botha and cartoon characters including Pikachu and Kyle from South Park were also not spared from the scene as virus writers think of all sorts of subjects to perpetuate viruses to PCs.
"The popularity of pop stars and other celebrities makes them a key psychological aid in virus writers' attempts to persuade innocent computer users to open unsolicited emails."
As for Shakira, the new worm arrives in an email with the subject "Shakira pics" and an attachment named "ShakiraPics.jpg.vbs".
If the recipient runs this attachment, the worm forwards itself to everyone listed in the victim's Microsoft Outlook address book.
It also spreads via Internet Relay Chat (IRC). After spreading, the worm displays the message "You have been infected by the ShakiraPics Worm".
Another virus on the 'loose' is the VBS/Chick-F virus that poses as a Web utility that claims to allow fans of the World Cup mania to view up-to-the-minute results.
It bears the subject 'RE: Korea Japan Results' and spreads through emails and IRC.
"If the recipient runs the attached file and follows its instructions to enable ActiveX the worm will attempt to spread via IRC and forward itself to everyone in the user's address book," Sophos warned.
The company said that it has not received any reports of the virus in the wild to date, but notes that it came just days after it warned companies of the dangers of lax security during the World Cup competition.
"Whoever wrote this virus is aiming to exploit football fans around the world, hungry for news about their team's progress," said Cluley.
This is not the first time a potentially destructive virus has appeared to piggyback on the popularity of the World Cup.
In 1998, when the competition was held in France, Sophos said a similar attempt was made where an email tried to trick users into guessing who the winning team would be. If the user did not choose correctly, it triggered a warhead which was capable of wiping all the data off the hard drive.
The message to computer users remains simple - update your anti-virus software, practice safe computing and resist the temptation to open unsolicited emails even if they feature a familiar or interesting name.
As for the Shakira Pics worm, blocking double extensions at the email gateway or desktop will negate the threat.